Should the gross enrollment rate for agricultural education increase in the context of the NEP?

ICAR spearheads agricultural education through State Agricultural Universities (63) and Central Agricultural Universities (3), Deemed Universities (4), Central Universities with Faculty of Agriculture (4 ) and a few other private and public sector institutions. These institutions constitute 9% of all universities and have a gross enrollment rate of about 1%. Majority of agricultural education students are from Karnataka, Maharashtra, AP, Tamilnadu, Uttrakhand, Haryana while majority of faculty members are from Karnataka, UP, Maharashtra (Figs 1 & 2). India has set a target to achieve a gross enrollment ratio (GER) in tertiary education of 32% by 2022, compared to a global average of 36.7%.

Gross enrollment rate

The concept of Gross Enrollment Rate (GER) offers an estimate of the percentage of the population enrolled at a specific level of literacy/education out of the total eligible population. For example, the GER for primary education is the number of students enrolled at the primary level expressed as a percentage of the population of primary school age in a given school year. Currently, the GER in agricultural education is around 1%, implying that only 1% of PUC-level students eligible for agricultural and related science education enroll in higher education institutions in agriculture .

Factors Influencing GER in Agricultural Education

The current GER of 1% for agricultural education at all levels in India is in itself a considerable magnitude as or is there still a need to increase it beyond 1% requires careful consideration by policy makers. Currently with 350 constituent colleges, annually 25,000 students at UG, 15,000 at masters and doctoral level. the programs are in addition to enrollment in private agricultural colleges. With approximately 23,000 scientists in teaching, research and extension in the ICAR-Agricultural Universities system offering 11 UG, PG study programs in 93 disciplines with 52% rural students and 36% female students. The gross enrollment rate, particularly in higher agricultural education, is strongly influenced by

1. The felt need for agricultural education now or in the future
2. The number of places available or staffing
3. The quality of education provided, the quality of teachers, researchers, extension specialists
4. The intensity of competition for the study program relative to other competing programs
5. How the eligibility conditions are framed (e.g. requirement of 50% in science
combination, age limit, etc.)
6. The scope of the reservation for all categories
7. The rigor with which the admissions process is conducted, administered, and the transparency and accountability of the admissions system
8. The student-teacher ratio required for in-depth education compared to the current student-teacher ratio (currently, admission is increasing, while teacher recruitment is stagnating or decreasing)
9. If there are multiple promising employment or higher education opportunities inside and outside the country
10. What are the self-employment and income opportunities for education and the current level of employment, unemployment and disguised unemployment?
11. Degree of hardship in the job
12. Ease with which the graduate can gain name/fame compared to other study programs
13. The current context of education and employment (eg during the green revolution jobs were created as agricultural workers) but not now when food security is achieved.
14. Financial accessibility of higher education
15. Flexibility to move to other professional programs
16. Family tradition, culture, history as encouragement or discouragement for higher education
17. The opportunity for students to represent the government due to the design of a
professional degree program if their degree is not recognized
18. Placement unit in each university and the effectiveness and efficiency of its operation.
19. The Extent of Alumni Cooperation with the University
20. Recognition of the curriculum by the manufacturing and service sectors

A 1% GER for agricultural education is more than enough

The current GER for agricultural education is 1% and is more than adequate. Due to ambitious programs without foresight to increase the GER in agricultural education, there has been a dilution of the quality of education resulting in unemployment and disguised unemployment leading to inefficiency and loss of welfare. Policymakers must have social responsibility before opening new agricultural colleges because there is huge unemployment and a lack of self-employment opportunities. We find that some agriculture graduates work in other sectors for extremely low wages.

Why don’t agriculture graduates set up on their own farm?

When engineering graduates can settle down and establish themselves, medical graduates can practice as doctors, law graduates can practice as lawyers, why can’t agriculture graduates? With around 74 agricultural colleges and the majority of students having their own land, why can’t they present themselves as a model farm in their own village? Agriculture graduates, like agriculture, lack capital and face an imperfectly competitive market dominated by intermediaries due to which farmers in general, without exception for agriculture graduates, receive a small share of the rupee at the consumption.

Conclusion

Policy makers should seriously analyze and take into account the various factors influencing the gross enrollment rate before proposing to increase the existing GER. In the current situation, the existing GER of around 1% by itself appears to be high given the current level of unemployment and underemployment of agricultural graduates. It is therefore crucial to be extremely careful and careful in the design of programs that include the development of CIP skills to at least retain the existing GER.



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The opinions expressed above are those of the author.



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Sallie R. Loera